At the STR Legends Live Mastermind, Eric Moeller and I connected with the top 25 short-term rental operators worldwide. Combined, these operators managed more than 1,000 listings. Eric and I were curious what made these hosts so successful, so we set out to identify what the common denominator was. We were able to identify three key areas that all successful Airbnb hosts focus on.
These three pillars are consistent among hosts from South Africa to Canada to the Dominican Republic.
Every successful Airbnb host understands the business, hospitality, and mindset.
Regardless of what industry you’re in, it’s important to set up a business the right way. This involves having a strategic plan on how to start and manage your business. Most of the people who fail are like bulls in a china shop, running right through and setting it up as they go.
You don’t need a super complicated business plan to be a successful Airbnb host, but you do need some sort of blueprint or structure in place. For instance, you should be able to answer the following questions:
These questions will help you identify what you’re missing and how you’re going to grow your business.
To tackle the first question, one of the obvious answers is property. But before you try to figure out how to get properties, you have to understand your marketplace. Ask yourself if it’s even worth starting a short-term rental business in your location:
You can’t go after every style of property because each property type is its own business. Managing a condo is going to take a different set of skills than managing a mansion.
Successful Airbnb hosts have systems. The goal here is to set up a property that’s able to run like an individual McDonald’s. McDonald’s has a system in place, where they’re very specific in what they serve and who they serve it to. This carries over to every single McDonald’s worldwide. Each unit runs in a similar fashion, even though the culture might differ.
The easiest way to get more five-star reviews and bookings is to create an outstanding guest experience.
When I first started hosting in 2012, I didn’t realize what I was getting into. And after working with so many other hosts, I’ve realized that most hosts don’t either. All successful Airbnb hosts make hospitality their priority.
At its very core, Airbnb is a business. If you told your friend you were going to start a bakery, he’d ask you about the local competition and your expertise. If you tell him you don’t have any experience and that you’ll figure it out along the way, your friend’s going to look at you like you’re crazy.
A lot of people don’t realize this is exactly what they’re doing when starting on Airbnb. I’ve heard over and over again that anyone can host on Airbnb because all you have to do is list your property. That’s the same as saying that anyone can start a bakery because all you have to do is put dough in the oven to make bake.
Sure, you can do that, but the question is: are you going to be successful? Most of the time nothing’s going to happen if you post a listing and wait for the bookings to come. You have to figure out how to stand out among the countless other Airbnb listings. Successful Airbnb hosts are business people.
The best (and easiest) way to stand out is through amazing hospitality. But to do that, you have to understand the customer journey. Figure out what causes a guest to book at one property instead of another. Identify what your value-add is and how you’re going to offer that to your customers. Look for ways to make it as easy as possible for guests to book. Determine how you’re going to give your guests something that’s better than they expect.
You want to get the most out of your property. You can do that by making it easy for people to find you and book. You can also do that by making sure your guests have an amazing experience.
Because this can be a lot of work, you want to figure out how you can automate the hosting process. Otherwise, you’re going to end up working for your business all day. In that case, you’re probably better off sticking to your 9-5 job.
At the end of the day, all the focus needs to be on the customer. Remember, Airbnb is a hospitality business. It’s on you to create an unforgettable experience for your guests.
After all, the best way to increase your revenue is to focus on the guest experience. This means investing in the property. You should hire the best people to help you and take care of the property.
It takes a different kind of mindset to become a successful Airbnb host. Entrepreneurship requires a different way of thinking than what’s needed at a typical 9-5 job.
When I was working my corporate job, I’d come in Monday to Friday at 8am, do what was expected of me, and then go home. My life was very structured, in that I knew that I was going to get a paycheck as long as I came in Monday to Friday. There's also job security because you tend to get fired only if you really screw up. I could put in 60-70% effort and be totally fine. This is what made it easier in terms of mindset.
I experienced a lot more stress and uncertainty when I quit my corporate job. There were a bunch of options for what I could do with my time, but there was no one telling me what to do. I was forced to figure out how to stay productive and how to stay sane with all these options and challenges. The first few things I tried out didn’t work and ended up giving me more stress.
I quickly realized that the person I was when I quit my job wasn’t going to be the person who was going to be a successful entrepreneur. Because of that, I invested a lot of money and time self-development. All successful entrepreneurs share this. You have to be willing to invest in yourself because that’s the only way you’re going to grow as a person. You need this step to be a successful Airbnb host.
Someone who’s new to short-term rentals is going to have a completely different mindset from someone who’s running 15, 50, or 100 listings.
New hosts often look at competition as a bad thing. They’re afraid that the market is too saturated. The more experienced hosts view a saturated market as a good thing. They use that as motivation to improve the hospitality side of the business.
When a city introduces stricter regulations, new hosts see that as another reason not to start a short-term rental business. The more experienced hosts see that as a challenge and are excited to come up with new ways to continue scaling their businesses.
Limiting beliefs explain a lot of the behavior discrepancies. A limiting belief tells you that something is impossible because you're lacking something. When I was writing my Airbnb book, I was initially held back by the fact that I wasn’t a native English-speaker or a writer.
Our minds are great at coming up with reasons for not doing something that’s outside our comfort zones. Because our minds want to avoid uncertainty, we are often our own worst enemies. Successful Airbnb hosts need to step out of this zone.
The only way to overcome these limiting beliefs is to take action one step at a time. You’re not going to eliminate your limiting beliefs overnight. Your mindset takes time to change. But without any action, there’s not going to be any progress. A great mindset to have during these times is to see failures and obstacles as opportunities to grow.
One of my favorite books on this topic is The Obstacle is The Way by Ryan Holiday. In essence, obstacles force us to think outside the box and do things we normally wouldn’t do. This is what makes us grow as people.
You’re going to need all three pillars for a successful short-term rental business.
Having the business side handled is important, but it’s not everything. Without the business side, hospitality won’t be there. And if you don’t have the proper mindset, you’re not going to be able to build a successful business.
If you’re interested in learning more, I’m teaching a free masterclass with Eric Moeller on this topic.
But there’s something I want to make clear: this masterclass isn’t for everyone. We only want the people who will have the biggest impact attending.
This means you’re someone who: